Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I doubt things will change much in the near future. Especially in the area of producing good quality dramas for television.
I just heard another sad or rather stupid incident involving a friend and a TV station. He submitted a completed drama and it went into the usual penilaian process. This process is rather a 'potluck' sort of quality check. Usually the committee look for not at the forest but the tree.
I have been left exasperated many times when comments and requests for changes in the dramas I had made earlier sounded stupid or rather petty.
Since I haven't done many dramas these last one year (strange for someone who has produced a series that is amongst the top five rated dramas) I haven't had the pleasure of going through this penilaian process. So it was interesting for me to listen to other directors and producers talk about criticism, comments and requests for RESHOOTS made by this TV station.
The most surprising was this friend of mine who said he had to reshoot two scenes when they commented that a scene depicting an accident caused by a snatch thief.
The sequence showed the victim falling down after her handbag was snatched by a mat rempit. She fell hit her head on the ground and injured herself.
According to this TV station, the scene was not 'real'. They have to re-shoot the scene where she fell down and hit her head on the ground. This time, they want the director to lay a big stone on the ground, and that her head hits this stone when she falls.
Wahhhh so terrer one!
Then he had to shoot another scene which was even more ridiculous.
He was asked to reshoot a scene showing one of the main characters who was a roadside goreng pisang seller at work. Why? Because the station thinks, the stall is not 'grand enough'.
What? A goreng pisang stall needs to be grand? What did they expect? Neon signs? Waiters? Menu? Cash register? Jeez. Maybe it is not that bad after all that I didn't have to do dramas for them anymore.
Sigh....but business is business, and I still hope that more business come my way from this station. And when it happens, I will have to deal with these 'experts' once again.

Friday, April 24, 2009


To my friends and pals who read my blog, I will soon begin a little technical enhancement. In a few weeks time, my blog will feature a podcast or a link to a podcast called Let's Talk About Filem.
It will be my maiden attempt at podcasting and also as an audio-journo.
The podcast will cover the kind of stuff you'd find on my blog without the personal stuff. The podcast will be solely on the state-of-the-industry stuff - local movie reviews, industry issues and other jello shivering stuff. I hope to interview personalities - maybe Yasmin, Tan Chui Mui, Pak Aziz Sattar, Mamat Khalid, Adflin, Aziz Othman, Gayathri, Rosie Rashid - from artistes to producers to directors. And the questions I pose will hopefully not be the kind of pointless Qs they usually get from the press. I want them to tell us what makes them tick, what makes their movies tick or stink, or just mindless coffee shop chattering between filmmakers.
Amongst the subjects I have already planned to include are : "Are Malaysian Filmmakers Dumb?" or "If Professors make Sifu dan Tonga, what do you expect from SPM cert holders?".
So, keep tuned in.....
Let's Talk About Filem...brought to you by Anak Wayang.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The following is a report I wrote for the heck of it. I have given it to many parties including one that say will forward it to the new Information Minister Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim. I hope so.
For those who are willing to spare some time, below is the report in full. It's quite long. Please comment.



Ever since the introduction of drama swasta in the early 80s (by the then Information Minister Y.B.Dato Seri Rais Yatim), RTM has been a constant beacon for the survival of the local film and TV production industry.

In fact, the concept of ‘drama swasta’ also led to TV3 launching their version of privatized commission a few years later under the label ‘Cerekarama’.

Nevertheless, the main idea behind the advent of these ‘commissioned’ productions were two fold: “To assist and support the livelihood of the professionals within the local film industry due to the dying cinema industry at that point of time”.

“To create a domestic creative industry that can support the TV stations with fresh and popular products for the TV viewers”.

The film practitioners of the local film industry welcomed the move as funding for cinematic releases were not forthcoming and making movies were considered too risky. So, in the early 70s, RTM came forward to assist them by commission original productions produced directly for TV.

My parents’ company RJ Film was one of the pioneering companies to have participated in this ‘drama swasta’ system. My mother made various series in 16 mm film for RTM and I made my first ever television production also through this system under my parents’ company = “Karam Di Mata Karam Di Hati” which starred the late Mahmud June and Marlia Musa.

During those early days, there were no funding available from banks or other financial institutions – so mom beg and borrowed to ensure her career as a producer grew back then.


At the beginning of the launch of ‘drama swasta’ video technology has not yet reached the local film industry and therefore, dramas were still produced on celluloid (albeit with 16mm film). Only by the late 80s were producers introduced to the video format – from the old two inch C formats to the much cheaper three-quarter inch U-matic video format introduced by Sony.

Since then, technology ruled the production – within 20 years – producers had to change between many formats – from U-matic to HiBand U-matic to Beta SP to the current Digi-Beta. Every three to five years, the technological standards are changed much to the chagrin of the producers who invested in equipment. Not only recording systems changed but also cameras. During the early days of TV production we used tube cameras and I was lucky to have used Ikegamis that I thought gave the best colors on video then. Unfortunately, whilst tube cameras were better than cameras with chips at that time, they have an inherent disadvantage. For night shots, when the camera is panned or tracked, any light point or points becomes streaks of lights.

Today, the whole world is studying the introduction of HD or HDV formats – which would bring down equipment costs drastically. Malaysia has not been able to avoid this drastic change. HDV and HD equipment are readily available and used for local dramas and documentaries. Even prosumer-level cameras are considered acceptable by many producers. Recently I have even heard of a local producer shooting a telemovie on Red – which is one of the leading brands of HD camera systems.

The post-production industry that began life as film/celluloid post also had to realize the changes from analog post-production technology to the current non-linear post-production technology. In the early days of 16mm and Super 16mm, editing was done the film way, on old Steinbecks rented by the hour from Finas or some studios like Pancha Delima or Filem Negara.

Today, in the digital world, post-production houses are poppin up everywhere since editing systems have become so-affordable. Anyone with a high end PC or Mac CPU and software like Final Cut Pro or Macromedia Premiere Director can cut a movie or television series.


When drama swasta began, there were no specific dramatic formats offered. The producers were told to propose and if found acceptable, it would be commissioned. These include the telefilm format (90 minute format) and the serial format (between 4 to 13 one hour episodes).

Content was usually typical social melodramas. Only in the late 80s would local producers attempt more ‘unusual’ or more creative content. This was due to the technological advances that allowed producers and directors to work with video technology that replaced film technology and made local dramas more affordable.

From social dramas, RTM now commissioned situational comedies, documentaries, variety shows and even local form series.

Amongst the more popular outsourced TV productions of the late 80s include Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu, Gerak Khas and Gado-Gado on RTM.


The local film/TV companies in the early days were operated by Bumiputra managed and controlled companies, but however when RTM required more content, and with the video technology being introduced, the non-Malays began to control the ‘support’ industry – this means Bumiputra controlled company’s had to rent equipment and edit their programmes in non-Bumiputra premises.

In time, these companies began to finance Bumiputra companies who received commissions from RTM. By the beginning of the 90s, the industry was basically financed by non-Bumis though it seemed Bumiputras controlled the industry.

In the late 80s HVD, a Bumiputra production company controlled by non-Bumiputras, was the biggest producer of original RTM content but when the then incumbent Minister Dato’ Mohamed Rahmat retired, HVD went into limbo. Its owners migrated and instead started various businesses in China. HVD’s era as the foremost RTM content producer ended. Today it is mostly a company that does dubbing for foreign imported TV series.

About a decade ago, due to the sudden rise in numbers of production companies, RTM decided that all these companies must apply for production hours from RTM through consortiums. So small companies band together to form these consortiums. I was involved in setting up of one of these consortiums but left when I disagreed with the Board structure. Amongst these consortiums include Keris Motion Sdn Bhd and Telemal Sdn Bhd.


RTM has been handing out hours since the early 90s. HVD had been the biggest benefactor of such hand-outs from RTM.

What are these ‘hours’?

Currently, each hour that RTM buys average RM40,000. Therefore, if RTM awards a company 100 hours, this means the company stands to earn a revenue of RM4 million. For those who cannot fathom the amount of production content 100-hours gives you, it is equivalent to nearly two hours of programming per week for the whole year.

There were unsubstantiated rumours that, at its height, HVD had been awarded 3000 hours (this means a revenue of RM120 million) per year. This allowed HVD to build an empire in terms of production facilities including a mini-city backlot in Cheras (which has since been destroyed).

HVD also ‘assisted’ Bumiputra producers by starting a so-called ‘umbrella’ industry. It offered young directors and producers sub-contracted projects. But in reality, it was pure ‘slavery’ as HVD wanted to squeeze and maximize profits. For example, a telefilem which RTM pays HVD RM80,000 then, they will in turn offer it to struggling Bumiputra producers at RM50,000 but with the proviso that these producers rent their technical equipment. This means that the desperate Malay producers only received about RM35,000 for production (artistes fees, directors and script fees and production daily costs) as the balance RM15,000 would go back to HVD field and post production rental.

When the era of HVD ended, RTM began offering more local producers ‘hours’ depending on various reasons.

However, by the early 90s, more than 400 production companies had registered with FINAS in hope to produce programmes for RTM.

Everybody who knew anybody in RTM seemed to be getting hours. So much so that true professionals were forgotten and push aside, so that these new ‘generation’ of producers can come up.


As businessmen, these producers were looking at quick profits – trying to make 50% profits on all hours received. This means the quality of productions for RTM remains ‘backward’ as producers prefer to concentrate of profits rather than quality productions for RTM.

The disparity of awarding the hours had also become political, and the industry ‘societies’ and associations (as unions doesn’t exist) went to the Ministry and demanded hours for their societies to help their members who are finding it hard to make ends meet. It seems that only a few producers were making huge profits and these associations wanted more of the revenue to flow to the whole industry (or so they claimed). The story remains the same even today as associations beg, politicked, cajoled and threatened the government that they deserve hours from RTM to survive and support their members.

Due to political pressure, over years, some hours were given to various associations – SENIMAN, PPFM, PAPITA and KARYAWAN. It was deemed that profits from the hours awarded to the associations would create a fund to help the welfare of its members. However, some of the associations – re-offered the hours to third parties at 30% discount. The association rake in 30% profits whilst the crony producers make another 20% profit - meaning, the costs of production were still being depressed at about 50% of RTM’s purchase price.


The 2007 tender process nearly killed the local film industry. For a year, 90 percent of the industry did not produce a single hour whilst RTM tried to change the commissioning scenario. RTM, due to the Minister’s intervention, decided to categorise producers into three definite categories – A, B and C with A being the top most qualified production house or company. When they categorizing ended, there was again much discrimination. Producers who just had minimal experience, no equipment and financial backing, but knew insiders, were given A Grades. Long time experienced producers with equipment, funding lines and creative teams but had no clout with insiders were listed or categorized as Grade B or even Cs.

The tender process aggravated the situation further. RTM was in no position to conduct such a tender process. They received thousands of full proposals to read and rate, and rumors have it that many proposals have yet to be read and vetted.

Producers spent hundreds of thousands preparing tender proposals but their proposals were deemed not suitable (these include producers who have been producing quality production for RTM).

As far as we know, RTM is the only TV station in the world that has a tender process for creative content. In most if not all other countries, creative content is a competitive exercise of who comes up with the best proposal and idea at any point of time. Producers pitch and present ideas to sponsors and TV stations with ideas and concepts (never full blown proposals).

Upon approval, a production committee oversees the production process till completion.


The tender process also screwed up the funding process already established by SME Bank (Bank Pembangunan). Current the tender process requires all successful tenders awardees to establish a ‘5% performance bond’ to the Government’ for the production.

This means, if the producers won a RM500,000 production, they have to first put in a performance bond of RM25,000 (a bond enforceable for a year in a bank).

SME Bank already has a similar mechanism that they call a ‘sinking fund’ – a 20% force savings upon all payments received from RTM by the producer. This fund is released once the producer’s funding line is fully cleared.

Therefore, a producer faces a 25% cashflow problem in this current scenario. This is made further problematic with a prime interest rate of 8% on the outstanding loan. This further means, the producers are already looking at 33% cashflow obstacle.

Contrary to what many people think, SME Bank doesn’t give 100% loan for RTM’s contract. They currently offer producers a 70% funding to RTM’s contracts. And of this 70% they only release 80% upon receiving the contract from RTM. The balance 20% is only released upon RTM’s approval of the finished product. In effect, local producers only get a 48% cash drawdown available from SME Bank before they can start their production.

This is why, producers try to produce the total production based on funding available which is 48% of the RTM’s contract.

This is again causes the rift and under funded producers ended up going to non-Bumi companies who have unlimited funds to finance their productions. These companies who are well funded and have equipment, welcome such producers.

At the end of the day, Bumiputra producers are surviving from hand to mouth whilst others (especially non-Bumiputra) smile all the way to the bank.

RTM’s tough production policies also scare away creative producers who would rather accept less money from TV3 and Astro as long as they have more creative control and produce products that they believe would be seen by more of their fans. Amongst the top producers doing work consistently for TV3 and Astro include Aziz M. Osman, Rosham Nor, Sheila Rusly, Erma Fatima, Rashid Sibir.

Producers and directors that hardly ever do any work with RTM any more because of the bureaucratic maze of RTM’s procedures include Othman Hafsham, Dato Rahim Razali, Nurhalim Mohamed, Ahmad Tarmimi, Bernice Chauly, and many others.

In the middle of last year, the industry heard of rumors which later became ‘open secrets’ by the news news of four unknown companies had received windfalls after being commissioned thousands of hours – this makes the tender process a laughing stock in the industry. It was rumoured that RTM/Ministry, or someone of power, in the Ministry, had approved each of these entities more than 1000 hours each (a total worth of RM400 million). These hours included the production of original production and the sale of imported and syndicated television programmes.


At the end of 2007, after the departure of former Information Minister Dato’ Zam Maidin, the tender process was in limbo. The new Information Minister was the dynamic Dato’ Shabery Chik. Things once again became fluid and blurry. RTM’s KSU then announced that whilst the tender process will still be maintained, RTM will introduce other measures that will help the industry.

One of these measures was that RTM is allowing direct negotiations – proposals given directly to RTM as was practiced ten years ago. However no details were offered and to date, no producers know what the KSU meant.

He also announced that if producers are confident of their own materials, they could produce it first (at their own cost and risk) and offer the completed product to RTM for purchase. RTM assures that all quality productions will be bought at attractive rates.

The non-Malay producers with bottomless funding sources cheered the news and are currently producing series and telemovies for RTM, confident that whatever they produce would be taken up by RTM. As far as we know, only a handful of Malay producers have gone that route as they feel it too risky. The few Malay producers that are producing ‘finished products’ are actually working for these non-Malay producers.


Another form of business being done by producers and distributors is the acquisition of syndicated programmes to RTM. Syndicated programmes are foreign programmes from overseas (The USA, Australia, Britain, Japan, Indonesia, India and China).

The price of these programmes are not standardized because it depends on the popularity of series and the speed at which it is offered to RTM since their airing in its original country.

These syndicated programmes also include movies, telemovies, documentaries and gameshows.

Currently, the biggest distribution companies in the country are Juita Viden and Vision Plus (both non-Malay controlled companies). With the current hours awarded to them, the lucky three new companies, are trying to outsell these two giants.

Vision Plus basically has given up the ‘battle’ to sell their best programmes to RTM because of the ‘difficulty’. They have built a better relationship with TV3, they sell their best titles to that station.

Vision Plus is also a regional player selling programmes to Indonesia, Thailand, Hongkong, Japan and Singapore.

Vision Plus represents some of the top TV principals or producers from the West. There is also a likelihood that these ‘approved’ companies by RTM are actually buying stuff from these two giants and resell the packages to RTM at a hefty price hike.

This is true when it comes to Indonesian TV series. Bumiputra distributors do not option Indonesian TV series for RTM because the non-Bumiputras have already ‘spoilt’ the market.

The TV producers in Indonesia prefer to work with non-Bumiputra distributors because they pay 100% up-front for the series they option for RTM. This ‘upfront payment’ means millions of Ringgit.

RTM then overpays these distributors between 100-300 percent. Most Indonesian TV series and serials (sinetron) are actually only worth between US$300 to US$2000 per episode but these distributors, claiming series popularity in Indonesia, dump these series between US$5000-US$8000 per episode to RTM.


What the public sees on RTM are controlled by a handful of RTM’s executives who have their own ideas about programming and production content. There is no consistency and no strategic or long term planning.

The joke about RTM is that when a new Minister comes in, old policies are scrapped and new policies brought in. In the past six years, RTM has had four Ministers – Tan Sri Kadir, Zam Maidin, Sabree Chik and now DSU Rais Yatim.

A majority of the local drama’s commissioned by RTM are simplistic social dramas that are “stale in originality, monotonous and of low entertainment value”.

Malay dramas in RTM are a laughing stock of the industry because the quality is questionable. Most of the good directors and producers who understand public taste prefer to produce dramas for TV3 and Astro. However, a few good producers and directors still continue working on projects for RTM because they feel they still can make a difference. But they have to suffer the bureaucracy to get their vision onto the channel.

RTM truly needs to re assess the commissioning process. Producers are held to ransom by a handful in RTM. The situation and relationship between RTM and the producers MUST change. Sometimes it doesn’t help when producers are treated like idiots and incompetent people. Othman Hafsham, a man with a proven track record, is one of the top and talented local producers who have had enough being told what to do and how to do it from people who have had no production experience before. I too had been called for a production meeting with RTM (for a proposal I sent that they said they wanted to commission) but unfortunately, five minutes into the discussion, I rejected the offer to do the project.

However, like most producers who depend solely on RTM, we usually sit and nod and smile at the remarkable comments they make about our proposals, in hope that they will approve it. The credo is that since RTM is paying for the production let them have what they want especially when RTM actually pays better than the other stations. So basically the local producers shut up listen and accept all the comments from these few and produce whatever proposals that are approved. It is after all the producers' rice bowl and they cannot bite the hands that feed them. The circle is therefore vicious.

The tender process did not solve anything. Production is a creative process and tenders do not guarantee programme success.

RTM also has a weird view of documentary production. Documentaries are not cheaper to produce than dramas. In fact, good documentaries are difficult and expensive to produce because they need extensive research.

Malaysian-made documentaries are not popular at all with foreign markets because its content is weak. Only fully sponsored documentary series like Jejak Rasul can break the foreign market (only Islamic market).

RTM also thinks that documentaries can be made by producers who are good at making dramatic content. They also do not understand that producers should compensate researchers (who are experts in their fields) properly. These doctors and professors, who make the difference in the documentary content, should be paid well for their knowledge and their time.

Documentaries need input from experts, professional researchers and educationists – all these are unique professionals. They are paid very highly for their time however, producers who produce documentary and magazine programmes cannot afford them – that is why producers hire unqualified writers and journalists to do research for them.

Good documentaries sell overseas. They have a long shelf life and are easier to sell than dramatic content. Therefore, Malaysia needs quality documentaries and RTM (and not Discovery Channel) should be the right party to assist documentary filmmakers to produce world-class documentaries.


The industry is waiting for RTM to accept HD and HDV quality products including ‘16:9’ widescreen productions which is banned from RTM.

HDV quality is accepted worldwide and is broadcast standard that is being accepted worldwide. RTM insistence of using Digi-Beta and Beta SP originated dramas (which is analog by definition). Rejecting dramas shot in HD or HDV is ridiculous.

The drama industry will face a great paradigm shift if RTM accepts HDV dramas. The technology is affordable and directors and producers can be more creative and productive. The camera is lightweight therefore allowing the camera crew to be more productive.

However, RTM does not seem to believe in HDV technology. RTM is pushing the expensive Digi-Beta technology to the industry (stating officially that only Digi-Beta content is broadcast quality). DigiBeta, which is nearly obsolete elsewhere in the world, is being dumped in Malaysia. A Digibeta player costs RM140,000 per unit whilst a HDV player costs only RM25,000 per unit. A DigiBeta camera with recorder costs RM150,000 whilst a high end HDV camera is only RM40,000.

HDV and HD would be the ideal way to go for producers and RTM if they want to follow the digital world.


The industry is thankful that RTM is currently both the best paymaster and offers the producers the highest price per hour. However, most producers who have big outfits cannot survive on producing one 13-episode series per year.

For an average size production house, they require at least RM 1million in revenue to survive because their average gross profit is about RM250,000 from this one million. Less operating and capital expenses, the company may make a net profit of about RM50,000 per year.

In the light of the current fuel price increase, it makes production much more expensive. I understand that RTM believes producers can produce dramas and content for RM50,000-RM60,000 per telefilem (at RM100,000 selling price), but ‘true’ producers who use experienced directors, writers and artistes, require at least RM,70,000-RM80,000 to produce good quality dramas for RTM.

Fuel price increase would also make shooting on location outside Klang Valley too expensive, and therefore it is hoped that RTM would be able to revise their purchase price upwards.

I would also like to suggest an open pricing policy for productions. This means that the procurement unit in RTM reviews purchase price of projects on a project-to-project basis. From the production proposal they receive, they can judge the correct production costs and purchase price for that project.

The current fixed price policy promoted by RTM now forces the producers to only propose projects that would fit the RM100,000 price tag. Producers will not propose productions that use CGI, specials effects, special costumes, exotic locations and sets and scenes that require lots of extras.

It is sad that currently, RTM doesn’t procure any costumed series because the price constraints doesn’t allow producers to produce anything requiring period sets, costumes and also stunts.


There are no Bumiputra broadcasting tycoon or TV producers in the country. Apart from TV3, which is a GLC, no Malay or Bumiputra broadcast personality can claim to be a tycoon.

Yusof Haslam too cannot claim to be that because he only produces two to three programmes for RTM. Anyone whose revenue is below RM10 million a year is no tycoon.

Compared to Ram Punjabi and the Samtani family in Indonesia – who are real TV tycoons – Malay film producers are a pitiful lot.

In Malaysia, content is King but Malay producers are not. RTM must be able to create at least 3 broadcasting tycoons who are involved in production and distribution in the same league as these Indonesian tycoons who also have a strong presence in Malaysia. Producing tycoons by way of giving them handouts like 3000 hours, and then watch them exploiting the industry they are supposed to help. should not be the way. These should be tycoons who understand and develop the industry from within.


This is not a tall order. RTM has the tools and it does not take much to get things in order. Creative people are getting frustrated, and they want to be active and produce quality work. RTM can truly be their saviour and not their bane.

ALL RTM needs to do is listen, cooperate, empathise not sympathise, assist and develop the industry.

Let’s hope that Dato Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim can do a Chris Angel and make the industry float to heights never before reached.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


My cousin emailed this picture of her family's visit to our Kampung Tunku house during the early 70s. I am not in the picture. Go figure.

Back row: L-R: My father (in dark glasses), my auntie Mak Milah, two unidentified persons, my brother Arjunaidi (tall guy in the back), in front of him my mother, mys sister Murniaty, my fav uncle Pak Tahir and my younger brother Asnadi. In the front row, my Padang cousin, Nur, and a group of my cousins (need my cuz to tell me who is who), in white scarf is my late grandmother, beside her is another cousin of mine, Mas Ayu, and seated beside her is someone I dont recognise.


Decided to have breakfast at Raju's near Jalan Gasing this morning. Been sometime since I did. The food there has come down in qualitny but is still good and better than most other Indian restaurants in Petaling Jaya.
So we were there just after nine - me having my usual roti canai garing and my wife ordering her tosai. And guess who arrived and sat in a table a few feet away minute later?
The new Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister YB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. He was with his wife I think and some friends. Nice to see our ministers looking relaxed and having breakfast like the rest of us. In fact, the last time I was in Raju's I met Johore's Mentri Besar YAB Datuk Ghani Othman. Raju seems to be attracting Johoreans. Hahaha.
Had a short chat with Tan Sri and congratulated him. He knows my parents well and we talked about Janda Baik - because his land is adjacent to our house over there. Told him it flooded last week and the road leading to our house was damaged. It was a short chat and I didn't want to disturb his breakfast with the rakyat. I hope other Ministers and politicians emulate this, and not just have meetings and lunches at five star restaurants in hotels.
After breakfast, me and the wife took a short walk to the famous Siamesse temple the Chetawan Temple to see the Songkran Festival there. Today is Songkran (Thailand's official new year celebrations) and most people know it as the water festival.
It is celebrated in a small scale over here amongst the Thai community but quite a big one in Kelantan.
I didn't plan to get wet this time around (last year I was in Pattaya for Songkran) so I just took some pictures and my wife bought some goodies from the hawkers who had set up some stalls in front of the temple.
Below are some pics of the event.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The Malaysian film industry is unique because it reports to many Ministries. Previously (before last week's announcement of the new cabinet make up), it was subservient to the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Science, Technology and Information, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance and various State and Municipal bodies.
For example, for television production, most companies have to liaise with RTM which is under the auspice of Ministry of Information (MOI). Filmmaking on the other hand falls under the umbrella of FINAS which is part of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage. Censorship pulak is under Home Affairs Ministry.
Animation and new content however has a lot of dealings under MOSTI or rather under MDec and MCMC (who also presides over the private sector broadcasters).
For post production, most companies refer to MITI for rebates of film equipment and accessories.
Furthermore, for you to do business with RTM or any other Ministry for that matter, you need to have your Kewangan status approved by MOF.
Rebates for box office returns, on the other hand, you need to apply for it through various State governments; likewise cinema owners licence and operating permit are tied to Municipal councils.
Now, after the cabinet shake up last week, the scenario has somewhat changed. Ministry of Information has now 'converged' with Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage and (surprisingly) Ministry of Communications. Now all TV and radio stations, private and government have been put under one Ministry. Film and TV are no more separated as RTM and FINAS, and Film Negara will be under one roof.
Animation, CGI and post production (and digital content) will also be working under the same roof.
So, the new Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim (who has been MOI Minister twice before) has been appointed to helm this now very powerful and massive Ministry.

I hope Datuk Seri Rais (pictured above) will once again look deeply into the problems that exist in the film and television industry, and understand that one cannot survive without the other.
Television industry has always been the breeding ground for filmmakers whilst the television industry in itself is an important ancillary market for feature films after its theatrical run ends.
As you would have known from reading my earlier postings, I am not much of a FINAS fan. I see it under performing under the current Director General for the past two years. FINAS can be a powerful entity supporting and developing local film production and talents, but it has somewhat neglected its role in the industry. Some may say that I am sour grapes, but let me just show you one example. Education and training is important, not only in the film industry but also in every industry, yet if someone receives an offer to study film in a prestigious college like the AFTR (Australian Film, Television and Radio) College or even in USC, UCLA or NYU, to name just a few, there is no scholarship scheme or study grant available from FINAS for such purposes. Amazing isn't it? Of course, FINAS says it hosts and organise regular workshops and master classes here in Kuala Lumpur, but I don't think that's enough. Fine, for those who are trying to make ends meet in the industry and want to upgrade their knowledge and skills to a certain extent that may be enough, but if a quality institution like USC or UCLA gives you an opportunity to study film on their premises, I don't see why scholarships or grants cannot be made available.
If FINAS can give loans and grants up to a few hundred thousand ringgits for making short films, monies for overseas education should also be available for budding young filmmakers.
The process of giving out loans for filmmaking too needs a complete overhaul. Too many producers and directors who pitched unproductive projects have been given money and to which the projects either stalled and died at the box office or at the hands of the film critics.
I believe, that if the filmmakers are in the business of making commercial movies and that they believe in the project's success, they should find private investors and not apply loans or grants from FINAS.
FINAS's ultimate role is to develop and help produce Malaysian movies with unique visions and ideas that would be accepted by the viewing public and also the festival market at large. They are there to help Malaysian movie makers get noticed.
And only through the development of such quality movies (albeit maybe non-commercial content) would world class Malaysian filmmakers be created.
These filmmakers must be allowed to make personal movies, interesting movies with unique visions without financial tension and pressure. Only through a radical makeover of the funding process would these filmmakers create such masterpieces.
FINAS should also re imagine themselves as the champion of local movies (Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English languages ones). They should create new marketing strategies to help increase the viewership of local movies in Malaysia itself, and then regionally and later internationally. They should study and maybe implement new exhibition policies for local films even to the extent of creating an outdoor kampung-to-kampung screening of the latest local movies (harking back to the old days). Such events, coordinated and assisted by the artistes and producers, would bring the film industry, and indirectly the entertainment industry, to the people. At the end of the day, it is the people that matters.
They are the ones who buy movie tickets, purchase DVDs and VCDs and pay subscription to watch the latest productions on TV, with their hard earned money. They (the public) cannot be taken for granted and since they pay good money, they must be entitled to good products. The public cannot be shortchanged anymore. It is about time, the film industry delivers quality Malaysian films to the public regularly and consistently.
And on a personal note to Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, I do hope he investigates the massive distribution of 'hours' from RTM to only a handful of companies, who then hold the local production community at ransom by subbing these hours to them at rock bottom prices. These companies, for example, are 'guaranteed' by RTM at least RM100,000 for a 90-minute telemovie. These companies then find gullible and desperate producers and filmmakers to produce said material at a cost of RM70,000 or less.
These producers, obviously, also want to make around RM15,000 to RM20,000 in profit and therefore budgets RM50,000 for the production.
What happens is that RTM pays RM100,000 for crap material made for half the price. No one wins. Only the vendors. They make at least RM30,000 for doing nothing, and if they make 52 telemovies a year (one per week), these middlemen make RM1.5 million in clean profits with not much risk. What's more disheartening is that this is just a small part of their concessions. They are also allowed to produce never ending TV series, magazine programmes and other materials are dirt cheap prices and high profit margins.
If this does not stop, RTM loses out, the local film community loses out and last but not least, the biggest losers are the viewers at home.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


You know the expression - Masuk Bakul Angkat Sendiri. This happened in Kuching a few days back. Not only that, in fact the expression was improved: Masuk Bakul, Angkat Sendiri, Naik Lif.
Seniman organised their yearly awards night in Kuching a few days back. As usual it was a 'mendabik dada sendiri' event lah.
I didn't go. I wasn't invited. So much for being an important person in the entertainment industry lah.
So, I got second hand news from my colleagues who did go and from the newspapers.
Even the newspapers reported the rather clumsy if not embarrassing sequences of events that happened over there.
Firstly, all the awards sounded corny and fishy.

Here are a few in Bahasa Malaysia:

  • Anugerah Khas Perdana Bintang Seniman Sokongan dan Bantuan Dalam Memartabatkan Industri Filem Tempatan.
  • Anugerah Perdana Seniman Pencapaian Abadi.
  • Anugerah Pencapaian Cemerlang Penyanyi Bertaraf Antarabangsa
  • Anugerah Pencapaian Cemerlang Filem Globalisasi
  • Anugerah Pencapaian Cemerlang Komedi Sepanjang Zaman.
  • Anugerah Pencapaian Cemerlang Bidang Penerbitan Filem Malaysia Yang Konsisten dan Box Office.
  • Anugerah Pencapaian Cemerlang Penulis Lirik Terunggul.

Let me try and translate the awards for you (albeit cheeky ones):
Special Premiere Award the Seniman Star for the Support and Assistance In Upholding The Status of The Local Film Industry - given to the National Film Development Board (FINAS). Duhhhhh isn't that what it was formed for? Will it set a precedence for associations to give awards to the various government bodies and departments for doing their jobs? How about a Special Award to the Prison's Department For Maintaining High Standards of Whipping The Ass of Undesirables?

The Premiere Seniman Award for Eternal Achievement - fuhhhh sounds very spiritual. Maybe should be awarded to Guru Nanak but instead given to the President of Seniman, the association that organised the event, Dato Mustafa Maarof. I will hold my comments until later about the choice.

Seniman Award for Excellence in Achievement as an International Standard Singer. This award goes to Anita Sarawak who has performed all over the world - yeah Las Vegas. Okay okay maybe a few other places lah.

Seniman Award for Excellence in Making Globalised Films. This was a tricky translation. The word Globalisasi is actually Globalisation but I can't fit the word into the said sentence without paraphrasing it. So I changed it to Globalised. Now Yasmin Ahmad can claim to be the first filmmaker in the world to carry the title of directing a movie that is globalised.

Seniman Award for Excellence in Comedy For All Time. Similar awards may be given to Muhammad Ali or maybe Charlie Chaplin if such an event were to be held in the USA, but over here, the guy who excels in comedy FOR ALL TIME, is Dato' Aziz Sattar...yeayyy!!! Go uncle Aziz!! Can't wait to read your autobiography.

Seniman Award for Excellence in the Field of Film Production and Producing Films that are Consistent and Box Office. This totally grammatically incorrect award, goes to perennial awards night favourite David Teoh. His films are really consistent and box office, you know. Don't play play.

Seniman Award for Excellence As The Bestest Lyricist Ever. No it's not my father who wrote lyrics for P. Ramlee's songs like Berkorban Apa Saja, Azizah and Tiada Kata Secantik Bahasa, but Habsah Hassan, restauranteur par excellence.

Other awards given include the Award for Best Visual Effects Director (wahhh suddenly got real award like the Academy awards) and this goes to KRU for the movie Cicakman. Just one movie and they won, others like Sudirman were given awards years after they are dead.
Another was James Lee, for Excellence As The New Generation of Directors (fuwoohh that also got award one!) and veteran actress Mariani Ismail who received a special consideration award (penghargaan khas) in the field of Singing and Acting. I have to use the word 'field' because the awards use the word 'dalam bidang'.

Tan Sri Jins Shamsudin, veteran actor-director-producer-cum-politician-who recently competed for a seat on the UMNO High Council and LOST!, also won an award that evening, but somehow the papers never mentioned what award it was.

There was one award which caught everyone by surprise. It is the famous Anugerah Perdana Seniman Agung P. Ramlee. Guess lah who the recipient is? Guess lah....and the award goes to (drumroll)...Chief Minister of Sarawak Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud...for his lifetime contribution to the film industry, especially so for his contribution to host this event in Kuching.

Now, the Malay Press is making a fuss about the awards given to FINAS and Dato Mustafa Maarof. Well, I already commented on the FINAS award.

Dato' Mustafa Maarof. Recipient of the Anugerah Perdana Seniman Pencapaian Abadi. The kye word here is Achievement. As an actor during the Golden Era of Malay films, where was he in the echelon of leading actors? Was he in the same league as Ahmad Mahmud, Nordin Ahmad, Mahmud Jun, A. R. Tompel, Salleh Kamil, S. Kadarisman, P. Ramlee, Yusoff Latif or even Mat Sentul? He was? Name me one film that he was a lead actor in?

After his stint as an actor, what did he do? Did he direct any Malay movie? Did he finance and produce any Malay movie? Did he write any Malay movie? Did he write a book on the Malay film industry? No, he didn't. He instead invested in a production company called Warna Motion which produced TVCs and commissioned documentaries.

I guess I am not that intelligent lah....maybe the selection commitee had other criteria, like as President of seniman and the guy who made it all happen in Sarawak he should take home the award.

According to the association's treasurer, Abu Bakar Omar, Dato' Mustafa actually did not want to accept the award for three reasons (wahhh three reasons k, not one or two...but three).

He claimed his contribution to the film industry is not comparable to others (really?), as president of the association that is organising the event, there will be ill feelings if and when he receives the event's highest award (for real?) and lastly he didn't want people to say he angkat bakul bawa sendiri because it was his idea to create the said award for the event (nolah, who would think such things).

And yet, with much humility and poise, not to mention balls, he accepted the highest award of the night.

This is the industry I am in. Don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I have loads of friends..real ones...fake ones. From school days to my old work mates from the press days.
I also have friends around the world - including my youngest brother who has migrated to New Jersey. Most of my pals are also now Down Under.
I have great friends. Friends who would stick by me in bad times and good. Friends who would protect me and bend backwards to help me out.
Then there are friends who somehow managed to rub you the wrong way, and the friendship that you have built over the years disappears in an instant.
I have a college friend for example. He has a great family, works hard to establish himself in industry. He has a few cars, a few apartments and homes.
Unfortunately, he is now being ostracised by friends because he has become such an untrustworthy friend.
You see, as my friend, I introduced him to another group of my friends. It turned out that I shouldn't have. Early last year, he was in dire straits and he requested for financial help from me and my friends. I gave him some and from another good friend of mine, he borrowed 10k. He actually wanted to borrow 50k.
That was a year ago. Til today, he has not paid my friend. I felt bad because I introduced him into my circle of friends here. He has not called nor explained to my friend why he has not done so. Meanwhile, this friend of mine flies in from Sabah, parties at nights in KL with his lady friends, and claims to have secured multi-million ringgit contracts. I got a feeling that he couldn't care less because he thinks my friends, being somewhat well to do, wouldn't mind not being paid back the 10k. What is 10k to a friend who has millions right? Well he is wrong. When you borrow money from a friend, even 10 ringgit, you have to pay it back...failing which just apologise and explain the situation. Don't just ignore or shirk your responsibilities.
This is a friend no one needs. This is a fucked up friend.
Today, my friends and I know who he really is. Even our friends in Sabah are deserting him.
We wish him well but never again shall we call him a friend.
Other friends sometime also lose the plot.
They think, as friends, they can say anything about other friends and we would just laugh it away. Little do they know that sometimes, words said without thought, can hurt friends deeply. I have a couple of friends for example that I have deleted from my friends list in FB because of this. They think they are funny, they think its okay to put down friends in public, they think they are so smart. Not!
I also have relatives whom I consider friends. So I made the biggest mistake of asking one of them to do my renovation - roofing, front porch, new gate and drainage. To date, I have spent RM50,000 and it is still not completed. My roof leaks when it rains, the workmanship is amateurish and they come to work whenever they feel like it. I have given up and sacked him even though work has yet not completed. I am so sad that a nephew of mine did this to me. It is unforgivable. All I can do now is to tell all my other relatives and friends not to use his services and tell everyone that he is not to be trusted. I pity his father, my cousin. Now I have to spend more money to repair all the mistakes that he has made.
Nevertheless, I thank god for the great friends I have. True friends who value our time together. You guys and gals know who you are. Give yourself a pat on the back because in my life, you are true gems.


I have been trying to develop three movies recently and hopefully, at least two will come to fruition. The first one will be quite interesting to say the least because it will be collaboration between three countries – the first of its kind in Malaysia I think.
The movie is, of course, based on my popular TV series Bilik No. 13.
This time around, I am going regional. The working title would be Bilik No. 13 – The Movie. Mainly because I need to attract the million viewers who tuned in to the series weekly when it was on the air on RTM.
I know that there’s a lot of crap out there in the cinemas, especially for this genre that I love, but I believe the approach we have is interesting to say the least.
The movie, if and when it is receives a green light, will be participated by three producers (including myself). The other two will be a producer from Indonesia and Hongkong.
Both producers (in Indonesian and Hongkong) are well known producers, especially the one from Hongkong. My partner, Ken Yap, went recently to the former British colony, during the Hongkong Film Market, and met up with this producer and another young up-and-coming director for a four hour meeting, discussing the possibility of him participating in the film project.
It was a most exciting meeting for Ken, because not only was he actually talking to a legend and was talking about making movies with this guy. And the best thing was that this Hongkong legend has verbally agreed to be a part of the project as he found the project most interesting.
I, too, have just returned from Jakarta taking a second meeting with the Indonesian producer who has shown keen interest in participating in the movie. He is excited and has already begun developing it on his side, getting budgets, costing and casting considerations. A famous director known for making horror movies known for dire has also agreed to be part of the project though he is still having a hard time trying to find the right story.
The format is simple. Three psychologists, one from Malaysia, the others from Indonesia and Hongkong, meet up at a breakaway session in an international conference on mental illness. The breakaway session is in Room 13 of the hotel. They discuss about the effect localize culture and beliefs has on mental patients who have a penchant for believing paranormal events.
Each doctor decides to tell the others, his most baffling case.
The three cases become the three stories in the movie ala 4bia or Three. Each story is estimated at 25 minutes each
So this time around, viewers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Hongkong will get to see the work of filmmakers from these three countries.
Already, the Indonesian filmmaker is talking about making his segment better than his Malaysian counterpart as his reputation as a top director of horror movies in Indonesia is at stake – it is a challenge he relishes and a competition that is much welcomed and friendly.
I have written my segment and is still thinking which of the two screenplays I have written would be ideal. One, which I gave the title “The Tutor” is very Western – influenced much by filmmakers like Del Toro and Hitchcock. The other is very local, yet with J-horror influence. My friends who have read the stories prefer the latter because The Tutor, could actually be made into a full blown feature, because it is scarier and deserves its own feature film release. Furthermore, the second is very Melayu and may be interesting for the viewers in Hongkong and maybe Indonesian.
So most probably, my other screenplay entitled Polong, will be selected. A simple, yet gothic albeit Asian gothic, horror piece.
The Hongkong segment is based on an idea and story written by my friend, Ken. The story is very interesting and very Chinese. Furthermore, since his discussion with the Hongkong filmmakers, the story has been improved by leaps and bounds.
My hope in producing this movie is that for once, a Malaysian film makes an impact in these territories – Indonesia (the so-called Holy Grail for Malay movies) and Hongkong, and of course its own home market attracting non-Malay viewers.
I am not trying to hope that the movie gets shown and bought by the Americans or the Europeans. Just these three countries pun dah cukup. I will be more than happy.
Each segment will be shot in languages that are their own – the Indonesian version will have Indonesian dialogue, the Hongkong segment will be shot in Cantonese and our segment in Bahasa Melayu. The segment that links the three stories together will be shot in English.
I hope things will go well, and the movie gets approval from my investors. If they agree, the movie will be launched by end May and cameras will role within the month after that. The launch will get regional, if not international press, and it will mark a new beginning for me as a producer and filmmaker.
Your support, and those who enjoy watching good local movies, will be most appreciated and welcomed.